The symbol from the charm ring appeared in my mind. “An incubus. And it didn’t get here by chance. The boy summoned it.”
Malcolm’s jaw dropped. “How?”
“How old is James?”
“Fifteen. His birthday was three months ago in July.”
I breathed deep and exhaled slowly. “Sounds right. He’s coming into his power. Probably dabbled a bit, thought he was conjuring something simple from Sideways.”
“Coming into his power?” Malcolm stared at me with a quizzical expression then turned his attention to James. “He’s a wizard?”
“He didn’t pull a small spirit, did he?” Malcolm said. Concern furrowed the pastor’s brow as he crossed his arms and held his chin in his hand.
“He summoned something from the wrong neighborhood.”
“Not quite that far,” I said. “Unless James has a lot of untapped power.” I could hear cars starting up and driving off. “We’re taking this outside. Go get the circles prepared for me. Flat earth, no bumps or dips. You remember the marks I showed you?”
Malcolm nodded. He left just as Patricia and Terry returned.
“Once I’ve got the containment spell in place, you two will need to unstrap him. Terry, can you carry him?”
The big man nodded curtly. Patricia looked worried. “Containment spell?” she asked.
“Some spirits can jump bodies through touch,” I said. “I need to keep it in James until we can get him outside. Then I can get the bastard out of your son.”
Both of them looked to each other. Apparently resolved, they readied themselves to unbind James. Since there were no more electronics to worry about frying, I siphoned off the remaining energy in the room from the demon’s outburst. It felt like I was touching rancid meat. My cane blared to life, casting verdant light in every direction.
My mind focused on weaving a net around the demon-possessed teenager. With that image in my brain, I channeled the energy and spoke.
“Contineo,” I entoned.
The demon reacted instantly, shoving its power against the closing net. My spell held against the assault, which died away almost as quickly as it started. James’ eyes never left me. A malevolent smile crossed his lips.
Terry carried the James’ limp form in his arms as we walked across the lawn behind the house. Evening had advanced while we were in the house. Shadows covered the copse of trees right next to the house. There were a few lonely palm trees interspersed across the yard. Malcolm stood in the center of a field fifty or sixty feet north of the barn. Once we were closer, I could see he was wiping off a utility knife.
My spell remained in place. The incubus had made no attempt to fight me since the initial outburst. “Terry, put James in the center circle.” My focus remained on the spell, but I had a feeling the incubus was not going to fight me anymore. That realization sent a sharp chill down my spine.
Grumbling the whole way, Terry did as I instructed. His pace was slow as he left the circle, taking time to examine the concentric rings and patterns Malcolm had carved into the ground. Once Terry was outside the circle, I entered it.
Malcolm directed Patricia and Terry to a spot ten feet away. I walked a quick circuit through the designs, scanning each of the symbols. Malcolm’s memory was exceptional and he’d managed to get the details completely right. My circuit brought me face to face with James’ family.
“Under no circumstances should anyone cross this line,” I said, pointing to the outer ring that formed the main circle.
“Will this hurt my son?” asked Patricia, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks.
I wanted wanted to lie to her, but that wouldn’t help matters. “It’s going to hurt,” I said. “Can’t do much to stop that.” Looking to Terry, I raised my cane and pointed the knotted handle at him while indicating the circle with my free hand. “Do. Not. Cross. This. Line.”
Turning away from them, I focused on the ambient magical energy of the farm. This place was a happy one, filled with laughter. It was also filled with hard work, frustration, and some pain. I tapped into the natural flow of energy in the earth and pulled some of it away, using it to close the circle. The symbols and lines began glowing red. With the containment ward in place, I walked to the center, where James’ supine body waited.
I shifted my attention from the ward to the immobilizing spell I’d crafted a bit earlier. Waving my cane, I said, “Solvo.”
The spell on James’ body vanished. The demon had been waiting for it. James was upright instantly, staring at me with a vicious smile.
“Hello cutie,” I said. My smile matched the demon’s. “I’m speaking to the entity inside of James Masters. You will release him. Exorcizo.” I poured magic into my final word, a powerful command to the spirit of lust. The psychic pushback I received was strong enough almost to bring me to one knee.
Behind the assault I could hear self-assured laughter. Demons are creatures of will and magic. They tend to focus on overwhelming offense.
“By my power, you will release him. Exorcizo,” I said again. My words were more strained this time. I channeled more power into my command, using some of the energy my own body generates. That brought the irritating sensation of fatigue creeping into my body. My vision shifted, showing me the outline of the demon grasping James’ body. It seemed to be struggling to remain in control of the teenager.
“I was invited in,” a voice said. It sounded wrong coming from James’ mouth. The voice was sultry, masculine but teasing in a way a fifteen year old boy should know nothing about. “I will have this body.”
The incubus pushed back with its power. This time I did fall to one knee. My cane kept me upright, but just barely. I could feel the incubus probing the edges of my mind, trying to find a way in. It felt like mucus-covered tentacles brushing against my brain.
“On second thought,” I heard the incubus say, “you would make a magnificent host. So many passions, so much more on which to feed.”
I placed a hand on the ground to steady myself. The feeling of warm grass and dirt centered me. Drawing on the latent power of the earth, I used it to bolster my defenses. The tentacles were smashed as my mental fortress was reinforced. Through my magical vision I could see the satisfied smirk disappear from the incubus’ face.
“You will not have him!” I shouted. “By my power, Exorcizo!” I pushed as much as I could into those words, leaving just enough behind for what I would need next.
A caterwauling scream erupted from James’ body. The teenager began contorting violently. In the distance I could hear gasps, but I didn’t feel the energy of the circle break from intrusion.
A figure now stood over James’ body. It was a naked man. Dark hair fell to his shoulders. He had piercing, coal-black eyes.
I reached out and pulled James close to me. The demon stood in his nude glory, immaculate, and not bothering to object. I made James was clear of the circle’s center.
“Foolish mortal,” said the incubus. Freed of James’ body, it had a free-flowing swagger. “You’ve exhausted your power exorcising me. Can your circle now hold me? I thought wizards were smarter than that.”
I smiled and said, “We are. Malcolm!”
The principle behind any geometric design in magic is to contain a great deal of energy in a single space. This makes it easier for a wizard or practitioner to focus that energy into an effect. When Malcolm’s foot crossed the threshold of the outer circle, it released all the energy I used to expel the demon from James’ body. The runes in the center circle, where James had been a moment before, pulsed with light.
Latching onto the energy released from the outer circle, I channeled one final spell. I announced, “Depello.”
The pent-up energy entered the inner circle, cutting off the incubus’ connection to the physical world. The banishment spell disintegrated the demon’s form. Gurgles of frustrated rage escaped the incubus’ mouth before the creature dissolved into black ectoplasm.
I plopped down on my ass, breathing heavily. Fatigue threatened to envelope me. When I turned my head to loo, Patricia was already cradling her son’s head in her lap. Both were crying softly. A small smile crept over my face. Malcolm appeared next to me, offering a hand up. I took it.
Half an hour later, Patricia was on the porch thanking me profusely. She handed me a thick envelope. I tipped my head and took it.
Malcolm waited next to his car. He waved to Patricia, promising to check in on James in a day or two. I shambled over to his silver sedan.
“Mind giving me a lift?” I asked. “Taxi would take at least an hour to get here.”
Malcolm nodded. “Put your gear in the trunk. I don’t want to replace the speakers again.”
“One time,” I muttered. “That happened one time.” I did as he asked. Malcolm’s good people. So were Patricia and her son. I’d done a good thing tonight. And with the money from Patricia, I’d have my car out of the shop in the morning.